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'Mystery range' Agni 5 to be inducted soon: How far can it strike in Chinese territory?

By Vikas Sv
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    New Delhi, July 2: After series of successfull tests over the years, the first batch of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Agni- 5 will soon be inducted into the India's Strategic Forces Command (SFC). SFC is the wing of armed forces that controls India's missiles and nuclear assets.

    The first test of Agni-5 was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second on September 15, 2013, the third on January 31, 2015 and the fourth on December 26, 2016. The fifth test was held on January 18. All the five trials were successful.

    File photo

    Very few countries including the US, China, Russia, France and North Korea have intercontinental ballistic missiles. In its armoury, India currently has Agni-1 with 700 km range, Agni-2 with a 2,000-km range, Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2,500 km to more than 3,500-km range.

    The first batch of Agni-V will be handed over to the SFC "soon", the sources said while declining to elaborate further on the closely-guarded defence project. The missile is being inducted at a time when India's neighbourhood is witnessing evolving security threats, a PTI report said.

    Mystery surrounding Agni 5's range:

    Though Agni 5 is said to have a range of 5,000 kms, its range has been a contentious issue. Even India initially did not divulge the exact range of the missile, but later DRDO hinted that it has the capability to reach 5,000 kms.

    Chinese experts say that the missile actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 kilometres away and that the Indian government had deliberately downplayed the missile's capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries.

    Before delving further into the subject, one must understand why India could be deliberately understating its military capabilities. India is striving hard to gain into NSG and it may not go down well with the superpowers if it comes out in the open that India has a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads to a distance of around 8,000 kms. It may hamper India's chance of gaining entry in the elite NSG group.

    Let's compare Agni 5 with one of the most lethal solid propelled missiles in the world the Trident, developed by the United Kingdom, and try to understand the things better.

    The range of a missile is mainly determined by the amount of fuel it can carry, and the weight of its warheads. The fuel of a missile is determined mainly by its internal volume which is determined by its height and diameter, as well a weight. Like Agni, even Trident has 3 stages and propelled by solid fuel. Trident weighs 59 tons, is 13.5 meters long and has a diameter of 2.1 meters. Agni 5 weighs 50 tons, is 17.5 meters long and has diameter of 2 meters.

    [Is India developing a 12,000 kms range missile - Surya?]

    Agni 5 weighs less as its body and structure are entirely fabricated from lighter composite materials. Agni-5's diameter is less than Trident but is longer so it can be deduced that they carry more or less same amount of fuel. However, the official range of the Trident is 12,000 kms while the Agni V is '5000' kms.

    How far can Agni series strike in Chinese territory?

    Agni series has five missiles with varying strike capabilities and ranges. Agni 1 is a single stage solid fuel missile with a range of 1250 kms while Agni 2, an improvement of Agni 1, is a two-stage missile capable of striking targets 2000 kms away. Agni 2, if launched from a strategic location, can target western, central, and southern China.

    [India's Agni vs China's Dongfeng missile: Which is more powerful]

    Agni 4, however, can strike targets in nearly all of China, including Beijing, provided they are launched from the northeast. All the missiles in the Agni series are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

    Chinese experts say that the missile actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 kilometres away and that the Indian government had deliberately downplayed the missile's capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries. If the 8000 kms theory is true then India can strike whole of China even if the missile is launched from Southern India.

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